Challenges Associated With Counselling Multicultural Clients

Challenges Associated With Counselling Multicultural Clients

Sindusha Darshini Kanna Dasan (HELP University, Malaysia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6073-9.ch001

Abstract

The chapter is about different situations that therapists face challenges in and outlines what a therapist can do when faced with these challenging situations. The challenges covered are: challenging the competency of the therapist of color; transferring minority animosity to clients of other cultures; unrealistically viewing the therapist of colour as a super minority therapist; overidentification with the client; encountering clashes in cultural values; encountering clashes in communication and therapeutic styles; multicultural competence in a therapist; therapist of colour needing to prove competence; dealing with expressions of racist attitudes/beliefs/behaviors from clients; receiving and expressing racial animosity; and dealing with the stages of racial and cultural identity of therapists and clients. This chapter is to create awareness in therapist and help build multicultural competent therapist.
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Challenging The Competency Of The Therapist Of Color

Introduction on Being a Therapist

Being a therapist is a delicate and hazardous profession because therapists are entrusted with a responsibility to carry out their highest duty of care to ensure that clients are taken care of to the best of one’s ability, skills and expertise in the given area. A therapist will receive clients from all walks of life and one must be prepared mentally as well as emotionally to handle anything that clients may bring with them. Therefore, it is crucial that therapists remember that the most important tool there have in this field is themselves as a person. It is important for therapists to continually work towards getting to know themselves and to develop themselves as they go on. This is because in every therapy session a therapist brings their human qualities and experiences that has the power to influence the therapeutic process. If a therapist is not aware of certain aspects in themselves that could create countertransference it would potentially harm the therapeutic alliance and what’s worse is it could cause irreparable damage to the client. As illustrated in this example; a client had come in for sessions due to issues of guilt. Client narrated to his therapist that he had stolen food for his younger brother and himself when he was younger. Overcome by fear of being caught he had opened fire and ran off never knowing what had happened to the guy he shot. The therapist had taken it upon herself to find out what had happened to the guy he shot hoping to help bring some closure to her client’s life. However, by doing so the therapist had betrayed the client’s trusts. When the client came back for the next session and told the therapist that he was starting to feel much better, the therapist being so caught up by the information she found and what had happened to her personally had unintentionally blurted out to the client asking him if it was too early to feel better and if he thought about the person he shot. This outburst from the therapist brought tremendous harm to the client as it further compounded his feelings of guilt and made him question his past. Therefore, it is vital for therapists to work on their issues and ensure that it does not spill into the session as it can cause irrevocable harm to the client’s wellbeing.

Dealing With People of Colour

People of colour come from sensitive backgrounds because they have either been oppressed because of their skin colour, racial differences, ethnic differences, religion or political affiliation. Therefore, dealing with people of colour can sometimes proof to be slightly difficult because they have been looked down upon and treated unequally so coming for therapy sessions may be difficult for them. They may overtly or covertly try to challenge the credibility of the therapist of colour by questioning the therapist competence in an attempt to disprove the therapist’s insights to the issues they are facing and undermine the therapeutic process (Sue, 2010a). The challenges that come up may not be conscious to the client. However, they may become apparent through the unwarranted interest from the client in pursuing in depth information about the therapist training and background, types of qualification received, place of training and number of years in clinical practice (Sue, 2010a). It is important for therapist to be able to manage clients views of the therapist they are seeking from because most of the time clients just need assurance that the therapist they have sought out for therapy is capable of holding the space for them to talk about their issues and asking questions about the therapist is a way for them to assess if a therapist is someone who is safe who would not further degrade them. While these inquiries may come across as a personal attack and be uncomfortable for therapist especially therapist who are starting out in the field, it is important for therapist to manage their own comfort in dealing with client’s questions about themselves. To be able to do this a therapist needs to remember where their clients are coming from, how would the information that the client is seeking for be beneficial to them and how to provide responses that will uphold their integrity and themselves as a therapist. Example an African-American once asked a therapist of colour if she had worked with similar people in the past to gauge if the therapist was aware of the struggles he went through as an African-American. These challenges are apt to surface during a therapist career so one must be tactful in handling such challenges as it could mean a start to forming a strong therapeutic alliance or an end to an opportunity to support the client in their journey.

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